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In Iraq, Emmanuel Macron’s visit raises measured hopes



“Behind these conferences, there are often plenty of promises that have never been kept”. From the living room of his plush apartment in the Ziyouna neighborhood in eastern Baghdad, Anan, 63, lets out a wry sigh. On the eve of the holding of an unprecedented summit, bringing together on Saturday August 28 in the heart of the Iraqi capital representatives of neighboring powers and President Emmanuel Macron, this faithful of the Syrian Catholic Church, employed in a British company, immediately did an aside to recall how much she esteems France.

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“Concerned about taking care of humanity, it was able to open its doors to us. After the conquest by Daesh of northern Iraq, I myself was able to leave, in 2015, to live there, obtaining refugee status ”, she says. Finally caught up six months later by nostalgia for the country, Anan, like many Iraqis, still retains a good image of France.

Why is Emmanuel Macron returning to Iraq?

“France is well perceived in Iraq, because it did not intervene during the American invasion [en 2003, NDLR] and participated very actively in the fight against Daesh ”, explains sociologist Adel Bakawan, president of the French Center for Research on Iraq (CFRI). “In addition, it does not have the same approach as the United States in matters of cultural, economic and social development. But the Iraqis are also well aware that Paris does not have at all the same means as Washington ”.

Security support

In the wake of the announcement of the gradual disengagement of the Americans in the Iraqi theater, and under the specter of the Afghan chaos generated over the past two weeks by such a withdrawal, Baghdad wants to strengthen its ties with France. Its military support, in particular, for the fight against terrorism in an Iraq plagued by the growing influence of Shiite militias more or less affiliated with Tehran and by the residual jihadist pockets, appears all the more essential.

“You know France’s attachment to the stability of Iraq, and this attachment begins with the pursuit of the fight against Daesh and the reconstruction of the liberated areas. We all know that we must not let our guard down, because Daesh remains a threat ”, thus hammered Emmanuel Macron in front of the Iraqi Prime Minister Moustafa al-Kazimi, at the end of a bilateral meeting Saturday, August 28, ensuring again that “The very form” of this conference being ” a success “ aspiring to pose “A framework for security cooperation”.

→ LONG FORMAT. What remains of Daesh in Iraq

Support for the political stabilization process a few weeks before crucial early legislative elections for Iraq, aid for the returns of displaced populations, new economic cooperation projects… On Saturday August 28, the head of government and Iraqi President Barham Saleh spoke again, to Baghdad, the weight of their cooperation with the Élysée.

“With this second visit in less than a year, Emmanuel Macron is also sending a strong message of support for the local population, plagued by multifaceted crises: security, economic, political, social, but also now health and climate”, analyzes political scientist Myriam Benraad, associate professor in international relations at Schiller International University and author of the book Terrorism, the pangs of revenge (1).

“A touch of optimism”

Many believe that Emmanuel Macron’s official trip to Baghdad is a ” good initiative “. Without, however, raising great expectations within a population disillusioned by decades of hardship. “His visit will certainly not solve the Iraqis’ problems: it is up to us to manage them ourselves”, sweeps away Ahmad, a young journalist from the Shiite suburbs of Baghdad.

Former leader of the social protest movement denouncing since 2019 the growing nuisance power of the various pro-Tehran militias, endemic corruption and the lethargy of the political class, this thirty-something has since been forced to flee Iraq, after having been personally threatened by Iranian forces.

Between the 1er October 2019 and December 31, the protest was indeed severely repressed, with nearly 600 dead and 2,300 injured. “Today, we call on France to stand up for the defense and protection of our rights and our values”, Ahmad breathes. “His visit gives us a touch of optimism, showing that the international community is not completely abandoning us…”.

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